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Goal.com profiles the five players in the present Nigeria national team set up who have earned the most caps for the Super Eagles

ANALYSIS
By Joan Iwuchukwu

A few weeks ago, Nigeria goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama marked a decade of service to the Super Eagles. It was a milestone for the Lille goalkeeper who came into the core of the team during the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan.

Several players have given years of service to the west African nation in the past – Kanu Nwankwo spent 16 years in the national team while present coach Stephen Keshi gave 12 years of his life to the Eagles. During the difficult times, some of these players have questioned the logic behind giving so much while receiving so little praise.

In this article, Goal.com profiles the longest serving players in the current Nigeria squad, while considering how their careers have been shaped by their national team duty.

5. TAYE TAIWO

Position: Left-back

Years active: Eight

Duration: 2004 to present

No. of caps: 53

Goals: 5

Festac-born Taye Taiwo has been a consistent part of the Super Eagles side since he made his debut in 2004. He replaced Ifeanyi Udeze and since then he has made a remarkable impact for the team as a left full-back. He is known for his powerful shots and free kicks. He has played under a myriad of coaches, though he has featured only once under current coach Stephen Keshi thus far.

The left-back has represented his country on 53 occasions, and scored five times. At 27 years of age, he is receiving very stiff competition from home-based lad Juwon Oshinawa, while Elderson Echiejile is keen to compete with the stalwart.

4. JOHN UTAKA

Position: Forward

Years active: 10

Duration: 2002 to present

No. of caps: 43

Goals: 6

Forward John Utaka returned to the fold of the Super Eagles in June 2012 after being locked out since the end of the 2010 World Cup. The Montpellier striker’s national team career was resurrected due to his impressive performances while leading his team to the French Ligue 1 title.

Stephen Keshi fielded him for the Eagles’ matches against Namibia and Malawi, giving him an opportunity to mark a decade in the service of his country. Utaka made his debut in 2002 and has played at three Africa Cup of Nations tournaments. One of his most memorable moments was when he scored the winning goal in the 2-1 defeat of Cameroon in the quarter-final of Tunisia 2004.

3. PETER ODEMWINGIE

Position: Forward

Years active: 10

Duration: 2002 to present

No. of caps: 54

Goals: 9

One of the youngest players to have played for the national team, Peter Odemwingie was born in Uzbekistan but chose to play for Nigeria. He was taken to the 2002 World Cup as a backup player. From that time until now, the pacey striker has won 54 caps and scored nine goals for the Super Eagles.

His competitive debut came as a substitute in a 3-0 victory over Kenya on May 4, 2002 aged just 20. At the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 2004, he scored twice against South Africa, in the 80th and 82nd minutes, after coming on as a substitute in the Super Eagles' first match of the competition. He has played in a total of four Afcons and at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Odemwingie has had high profile spats with national team coaches Amodu Shaibu, Lars Lagerback and Samson Siasia, but despite the friction with some managers, he has been a loyal servant to the Super Eagles.

2. VINCENT ENYEAMA

Position: Goalkeeper

Years active: 10

Duration: 2002 to present

No. of caps: 65

Goals: 1

The Lille goalkeeper is the second longest serving Super Eagles player in the current squad. He marked a decade in the national team ahead of the World Cup qualification match against Malawi in June.

He was picked for the 2002 World Cup by Adegboye Onigbinde as a cover for Ike Shorunmu and played one match in that tournament, keeping a clean sheet against England. That encounter will be remembered fondly for his save from a David Beckham free kick. He has been first choice for the national team ever since, except for on rare occasions when he was injured or excluded from the team on disciplinary grounds.

The 2010 World Cup in South Africa will also be fondly remembered for the way he virtually single-handedly made sure that Argentina’s Lionel Messi did not score against the Super Eagles. He helped a Nigerian club win the Caf Champions League for the first time with Enyimba FC of Aba in 2003 and 2004. At 29 years of age, and as a goalkeeper, Enyeama could be in the national team for many more years.

1. JOSEPH YOBO


Position: Central defender

Years active: 11

Duration: 2001 to present

No. of caps: 87

Goals: 7

A former Under-20 striker, captain Joseph Yobo is currently the longest serving Super Eagle and has made history as the player with the most number of appearances for the national team, 87. The player who started his career with Michelin FC has indeed come a long way since he stood up against George Weah of Liberia in a 2002 World Cup qualifier in Port Harcourt playing as a right-back.

He made his World Cup debut in 2002 in Japan and South Korea and famously provided the cross for Julius Aghahowa to score against Sweden, Nigeria’s lone goal in that tournament.

At 31 years old, he could get to the magical century of international caps if he can motivate the team to qualify for the 2013 and 2014 Afcon tournaments, and the World Cup in Brazil. Having won three Afcon bronze medals, Yobo has declared that he wants to win a major trophy with Nigeria before he considers retiring.

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